|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 7, 2008
Vice President's Remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference
Omni Shoreham Hotel
10:56 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, a welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for office again. (Laughter and applause.) Almost. Almost, I said.
I want to thank you very much for making me feel at home. I want to thank my home-state senator, John Barrasso. It's been great to see John move in and take over on behalf of a great friend of all of ours, Craig Thomas; and he's doing a superb job. He always voted for me, and come November I'm going to vote for him. (Laughter.)
John, of course, has spent years in public service at the state level, and he and I both know it's a tremendous experience running for office in Wyoming. He told a story about Dubois; I'll tell a story about Torrington, Wyoming. I've never forgotten when I was running for my sixth campaign. You know, I'd been in office 10 years; my picture had been in a newspaper and on television and so forth, I'd been to the rallies and the barbeques and all the door-to-door work for years.
Campaigning through Torrington one day, and I came up to an old cowboy with his back up against a tree, cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes, and told him -- reached for his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Dick Cheney. I'm running for Congress and I'd like your vote." He said, "You've got it -- that fool we've got in there now is no damn good." (Laughter.) So, one of these days, John, you'll run into that guy. He's still there. (Laughter.)
I also want to thank my good friend, Dave Keene, for hosting us today. Dave, of course, is known to all of us as a leading light of the conservative movement. He has a lot to be proud of. He's led the American Conservative Union for many, many years. And in the past he worked in the White House, on Capitol Hill for Senator James Buckley. He's toiled in the political vineyards for a long time, and he's made a difference. There's something else Dave can be proud of: He's the father of a soldier who served honorably and bravely in Iraq. (Applause.)
It's once again a pleasure to participate at CPAC. I'm in the eighth year of my current job, and I've enjoyed being here many times as Vice President. CPAC brings together some of the nation's most committed political activists -- the heart and soul of the conservative community, East and West, North and South. You've got an impressive lineup of speakers over the next few days. Among these are some fine citizens now running for office -- including, I'm certain, the next President of the United States. (Applause.)
And the main event, of course, happens tomorrow when CPAC 2008 welcomes the leader of the free world, our President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
My close association with the President goes back to the year 2000, when he asked me to lead the search for a vice presidential nominee. (Laughter.) That worked out pretty well. (Laughter.) Well, we've now begun our final year in office, and we're not going to waste a moment of it. We're going to revitalize America's economy in a time of challenge. And we're going to stay on the offensive in the war on terror. (Applause.)
In his State of the Union message last week, the President set out a confident path forward -- and on that path we're guided by principle. As conservatives, we believe in a government that takes up a smaller share of the national income, that treats tax dollars with respect and restraint. And we believe in a government that keeps to its limits under the Constitution, never expanding beyond the consent of the governed. And we believe in a government that defends the people, the values, the interests, and the territory of the United States -- with a military force second to none. (Applause.)
The President and I came to face challenges, to face them squarely, instead of ignoring them or passing them on to future generations. And this has required a lot of big decisions -- none of them easy, none of them taken lightly.
Seven years ago, we inherited an economy on its way to recession. So we acted quickly to turn it around, with tax cuts and rebates directly to the American people. As a result of that program, and other pro-growth tax policies passed that year, the recession of 2001 turned out to be short and shallow. And even after the shocks of 9/11, we haven't gone through a recession since. That's an impressive record, but it shouldn't surprise anyone. Ronald Reagan proved it years ago, and we've proved it again: lower taxes are always good for this economy. (Applause.)
Today we've got new economic challenges -- and once again the times call for decisive action. The best way to promote economic growth is to put more tax money back into the hands that earned it.
We've put together a solid, effective stimulus package with the leaders of the House. Under the plan, millions of workers will get tax relief, and businesses will get new incentives to buy equipment, expand their operations, and to hire new workers.
Our stimulus package is simple and temporary -- with not a penny of wasteful spending to explode the deficit. There won't be any new regulations, or economic meddling by the federal government. The entire tax package is tax relief -- not a single person in the country will see a tax increase.
After we address the vital economic concerns of the moment, we'll still have even more important work to do on tax policy. Without action by Congress, most of the tax release [sic] we've delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. That's all the Bush tax cuts -- the income tax reductions; capital gains and dividend tax relief; the thousand-dollar child credit; and the phase-out of the death tax. Owing to fine print in the law, all of these tax cuts will expire in just a few years. The effect would be an average increase of $1,800 a year in the tax bill of some 116 million Americans.
Aside from the huge risk this tax increase would pose to the economy, there's the larger question of fundamental fairness to the American taxpayer. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be one of the largest government money-grabs in American history, and we must not allow it to happen. (Applause.)
As we limit Washington's claim on people's paychecks, Congress will have to make some tough choices -- and maybe wind up with less money to spend on needless programs or their own pet projects. (Applause.) The President's budget this year holds non-security discretionary spending to an increase of less than 1 percent. He's also making major reductions, or terminating 151 wasteful or bloated programs totaling more than $18 billion. (Applause.) Working Americans have to set priorities and make tradeoffs in their budgets every day. It's time for the federal government to do the same. (Applause.)
The President is also pointing the way to more transparency and accountability in federal spending. By now, all Americans are familiar with the practice of congressional earmarks -- the pork barrel special interest projects that are quietly slipped into legislation when nobody notices. A year ago, the President asked Congress to do the right thing, and to cut the number and the cost of earmarks by at least half. He also asked them to stop putting earmarks into committee reports so they don't get voted into law. Congress did not get the job done on either front.
So this time, if Congress sends him an appropriations bill that fails to cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, he'll send it back with a veto. (Applause.) And last week, by executive order, the President directed federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not in bill language and not voted on by the Congress. If Congress is unwilling to vote on a project, we see no need to spend money on it. (Applause.)
The President and I hope the Congress will do what's right for the sake of growth and jobs for the American people -- from the stimulus package, to permanent tax relief, to budget integrity, to spending discipline. Important issues invite big debates, and we've had our share. But at our best, we've done hard things and done them well -- and in every case, it's been clear to members of both parties that George Bush is a man of principle and a man of his word. (Applause.)
He has stood firm for the tax cuts, fought for entitlement reform, strengthened private pensions to ensure that workers get their promised benefits, signed trade agreements that support high-paying jobs. He has spoken with clarity and conviction on the need to respect human life in all its seasons. (Applause.) And he has appointed superb judges to the trial courts, the appellate court, and the Supreme Court of the United States. (Applause.)
The most solemn duties we carry are those in the field of national security. And here, too, the nation and the world have seen the character and the resolve of George W. Bush. Only a few Presidents in history have been called upon to make so many urgent and serious decisions. He has faced them all with the kind of realism, fair-mindedness, and decency that Americans expect in their Presidents. Guiding this nation through a time of peril is a very tough job, and the right man is in it. He will never yield in defending the freedom and the security of the American people. (Applause.)
As a nation, we've gone nearly six and a half years now without another catastrophic attack like 9/11. Nobody can guarantee that we won't be hit again. The fact is the danger remains very real -- and we know the terrorists are still determined to hit us. I look at it every day in our intelligence briefs. They are fanatical in their hatred. They have tried many times to cause more violence and death to America.
And so, in a heightened threat environment, with a "persistent and evolving" terrorist adversary, the absence of another 9/11 is not an accident. It is an achievement. (Applause.) That achievement is the product of some hard work by Americans in intelligence, law enforcement, and the military -- and some very wise decisions by the President of the United States.
Not long ago, President Bush said that he "knew full well that if we were successful in protecting the country, that those lessons of September 11th would become dimmer and dimmer in some people's minds." Then he said, quote, "I just don't have that luxury, nor do the people that work with me to protect America, because we have not forgotten the lessons of September 11th."
One great lesson of 9/11 was that we had to stop treating terrorist attacks merely as law enforcement problems -- where you find out what happened, arrest the bad guys, put them in jail, and move on. The world changed with a coordinated attack, which ended the lives of 3,000 innocent people and turned 16 acres of New York City into ashes. As the President has made clear many times, we are dealing with a strategic threat to the United States. We are at war with an enemy who wants to cause mass death in this country. And we must act systematically and decisively until this enemy is destroyed. (Applause.)
To wage this fight we have to marshal our resources to go after the terrorists, to shut down their training camps, take down their networks, deny them sanctuary, disrupt their funding sources, and bring them to justice. We decided, as well, to go after the sponsors of terror, and to confront those who might provide these killers with more deadly capabilities. And because some of the early battlefields of the war have been right here in the United States, we have taken vital actions to defend the homeland against future attack.
To win a war like this you need good intelligence -- information that helps us figure out the movements of the enemy, the extent of their operations, the location of their cells, the plans they're making, the methods they use, and the targets they plan to strike. Information of this kind is the hardest to obtain. But it's worth the effort in terms of the plots that are averted and the lives that have been saved.
One of the ways we prevented attacks and saved lives is by monitoring terrorist-related communications. Last year, Congress passed major revisions to the FISA law -- that's the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- but those revisions are set to expire next week. We're asking Congress to make those revisions permanent, and to provide liability protection for companies that are believed to have helped protect America since 9/11. (Applause.) Those who act in good faith to defend this country should not be punished with lawsuits, or hassled by trial lawyers. (Applause.)
Just as we've monitored the communications of enemies at large, we've also gotten information out of the ones that we have captured. The military has interrogated terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay. And in addition, a small number of terrorists, high-value targets, held overseas have gone through an interrogation program run by the CIA. It's a tougher program, for tougher customers. (Applause.) These include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. He and others were questioned at a time when another attack on this country was believed to be imminent. It's a good thing we had them in custody, and it's a good thing we found out what they knew. (Applause.)
The procedures of the CIA program are designed to be safe, and they are in full compliance with the nation's laws and treaty obligations. They've been carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice, and very carefully monitored. The program is run by highly trained professionals who understand their obligations under the law. And the program has uncovered a wealth of information that has foiled attacks against the United States; information that has saved thousands of lives. (Applause.)
The United States is a country that takes human rights seriously. We do not torture -- it's against our laws and against our values. We're proud of our country and what it stands for. We expect all of those who serve America to conduct themselves with honor. And we enforce those rules. Some years ago, when abuses were committed at Abu Ghraib prison, a facility that had nothing to do with the CIA program, the abuses that came to light were, in fact, investigated, and those responsible were prosecuted.
America is a fair and a decent country. (Applause.) President Bush has made it clear, both publicly and privately, that our duty to uphold the laws and standards of this nation admit no exceptions in wartime. As he put it, "We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is, live by them."
The war on terror is, after all, more than a contest of arms and more than a test of will. It's also a battle of ideas. To prevail in the long run, we have to remove the conditions that inspire such blind, prideful hatred that drove 19 men to get into airplanes and come kill us. And so the President made the decision: We wouldn't just remove the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and let other dictators rise in their place. Instead, we're standing with the Iraqi and Afghan peoples -- as America did with other young democracies in earlier times -- to help them chart their own destiny. The free and democratic nations of Afghanistan and Iraq will be strategic partners, helping us to fight and to win the war on terror. (Applause.)
There's much more work to be done. The ideological struggle that's playing out in the broader Middle East -- the struggle against radical extremists who have declared war on us -- will concern America for the remainder of our administration, and well into the future. And the men and women who have fought and sacrificed in this cause can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives. (Applause.)
There is still tough work ahead. As the lead commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has said, the mission is "very, very hard. It's going to remain hard, it's going to take determination, persistence, additional resources, additional time and, occasionally, sheer force of will."
Fortunately, we've got the best people in the fight, including General Petraeus himself. (Applause.) It's been a year since the President sent him to carry out a new counterinsurgency strategy, backed up by a surge in American forces, to secure that country and to set the conditions for political reconciliation. And now we can see the effects: The new strategy is succeeding, the surge is working, the forces of freedom are winning. (Applause.)
Our new strategy in Iraq has succeeded by careful planning, and by close attention to changing conditions on the battlefield. The same will be true of any drawdown of troops. On behalf of the President, I can assure you that the decision will be based on what is right for our security and best for the troops -- without regard to polls, elite opinion, or flip-flops by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
From the very morning our nation was attacked on 9/11, the President of the United States has had to make some immensely enormous decisions. Every day he faces responsibilities that others would pale before. I've been there with him. I've seen him make the tough calls, and then weather the criticism and take the hits. President Bush has been tough and courageous. He's made the right decisions for the right reasons, and he always reflects the best values of the American people. I've been proud to stand by him and by the decisions he's made. And I would support those same -- and would I support those same decisions again today? You're damn right I would. (Applause.)
The important thing to remember, six and a half years after 9/11, is that the war on terror is still real, that it won't be won on the defensive, and that we have to proceed on many fronts at the same time. For those of us who work in offices and sit at desks in Washington, the sacrifices required are pretty small compared to those of Americans serving in the Iraqi desert, or in the mountains of Afghanistan, or the public servants who work day and night, with little margin for error, to detect a secret enemy before it's too late.
We'll never lack for inspiration in this fight -- because for that, we need only look to America's heroes in uniform. (Applause.) I know that later today, CPAC is hosting some of those heroes, including Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, author of a book called "Lone Survivor." (Applause.)
There he tells of a battle in Afghanistan, when he and three other Navy SEALS came under sudden attack by a much larger force. They were surrounded and pinned down in a ravine, unable to call for reinforcements. Facing a nearly hopeless situation, a member of the team, Lieutenant Michael Murphy, left his cover and went out into the open to get a radio signal. While calling for help he was severely wounded -- but he completed the call, picked up his rifle, and rejoined the fight. Soon a Chinook helicopter flew in, carrying an American rescue force. It was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, and all 16 men aboard were killed.
In the firefight, Lieutenant Murphy and two other members of the SEAL team were also killed by the enemy. At the end of a terrible, tragic day, Petty Officer Luttrell was the only member of the SEAL team who had survived. For his actions, he was presented with the Navy Cross. And his teammate, Lieutenant Michael Murphy, received the Medal of Honor posthumously. (Applause.)
In the heroism of that day, in the courage of our fallen and wounded soldiers, and in the perseverance of all who wear the uniform, we're reminded of how much this nation owes to the members of the United States Armed Forces. (Applause.) The freedoms we enjoy, the rights we exercise, all the privileges of living in this country -- none of these can ever be taken for granted. We have them because there have always been Americans who stand up for them, defend them, and when necessary, fight for them. And all of us have a duty to pass along to the next generation the free, strong and secure nation that was passed along to us.
My good friend, George Shultz, often told this story from his years as Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. Every time a new American ambassador was confirmed for his position, the Secretary would invite him or her to the State Department for a farewell visit. During these meetings, George would tell the ambassadors that there was one more test they had to take. "Before you can leave," he said, "I want you to go over to that globe and show me that you can identify your country." (Laughter.) Every time, the ambassador would turn the globe and point out where he was going off to serve.
One day, George had a visit from Mike Mansfield, former senator from Montana. Mike had been serving for several years as our ambassador to Japan, and was on his way back to Tokyo. George Shultz told him about the test and said, "Mr. Ambassador, it's your turn. Show me your country." Mike Mansfield went over to the globe and put his hand on the United States and said, "This is my country." (Applause.)
As Americans, we have every right to be proud, and to be thankful, that this is our country. The world we live in can be complicated, and messy, and dangerous. But for millions who suffer under tyranny, and those who live a daily struggle against hunger and disease, or who fight to maintain newly won freedom, there would be little hope without the active involvement and leadership of the United States of America. (Applause.)
We're a good and a decent country -- not just a nation of influence, but a nation of character. That sets us apart from so many of the great powers of history -- from ancient empires to the expansionist regimes of the last century. We're a superpower that has moral commitments and ideals that we not only proclaim, but act upon. Our purposes in this world are good and right. And in these decisive years, we are serving those purposes with confidence.
So today, with much yet to do, President Bush and I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve this country. With an economy to strengthen and a war to fight, we'll stay focused on the business of the people. We'll come to a strong finish -- and I'm confident that our jobs will be left in good hands. And when the last chapter is written, it'll be said that our nation became more prosperous and more secure because George W. Bush was President of these United States. (Applause.)
END 11:26 A.M. EST